The Unity of Western Civilization

Francis Sydney Marvin The Unity of Western Civilization
Francis Sydney Marvin
Рік видання:
2005 р.
Project Gutenberg
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The following essays are the substance of a course of lectures delivered at a Summer School at the Woodbrooke Settlement, near Birmingham, in August 1915. The general purpose of the course will be apparent from the essays themselves. No forced or mechanical uniformity of view was aimed at. The writers will be found, very naturally and properly, to differ in detail and in the stress they lay on different aspects of the case. But they agree in thinking that while our country's cause and the cause of our Allies is just and necessary and must be prosecuted with the utmost vigour, it is not inopportune to reflect on those common and ineradicable elements in the civilization of the West which tend to form a real commonwealth of nations and will survive even the most shattering of conflicts. That we on the Allied side stand fundamentally for this ideal is one of our most valuable assets.

The fact that the lectures were delivered at a settlement for training persons for social work in a religious spirit, suggested to more than one of those who took part in the course, how similar is the task which now lies before us in international affairs to that which Canon Barnett initiated thirty years ago for the treatment of the social question at home. We need in both cases to associate ourselves mentally with others in order to realize the common elements which underlie the seeming diversity in the civilization of the West.

The method of the course was primarily historical, though certain essays have been added of a more idealist type. It is hoped that the point of view suggested, though prompted by current events, may be found to have some permanent value. It could obviously be applied to many other aspects of European life, e.g. morality and politics, to which conditions of space have only permitted indirect reference to be made in this volume.

The possibility of a world-unity first consciously envisaged in the Greco-Roman world. Greece gives unity in thought, Rome in practice. Order with a solid intellectual foundation established with the Roman Empire. In the mediaeval world a unity mainly spiritual is reached in the same framework. The position of Germany in this development. The break-up of the fourteenth and fifteenth century. The enlargement of the known world and the growth of wealth and knowledge. This crisis still continues and has been recently accentuated by the birth-throes of nationalities. The supreme problem for international unity is now the reconciliation of national units with the interests of the whole. Underneath the superficial turmoil the great unifying forces of science and of common sentiments continue to grow and will ultimately prevail.

Contemporary history is the only genuine and important history, the present is the only object of historical knowledge; what the present is and how, properly conceived, it gives history its unity and justifies the study of what is past (ancient history); all history is our history, and otherwise without meaning or value to us. The history of classical antiquity is the history of the youth of the modern world, of the formation of the now latent but still potent hopes, fears, designs and thoughts which constitute the substratum of the European mind; how this still unites a divided Europe and affords a ground of hope for a restored and deepened union. Our debt to the Greeks: (a) the very notion of civilization, (b) the idea of its realization through knowledge, (c) the ideal of freedom as the inner spirit of true civilization. How the Greeks failed to work all this out in both theory and practice, and how nevertheless they taught their lesson to the world; the services of Greece to the world in the creation of Art, the Sciences, and Philosophy; the Greek ideal of a life beyond 'civilized' life, but rendered possible by it, and thus giving to civilized life a new and higher value; defects and merits of this ideal

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